Professional bull rider and Hulbert native Ryan Dirteater has seen success at the highest level of his sport.
Dirteater has tallied 18 event wins, 19 rides of 90 points or more and has completed qualified rides on over 40 percent of his outs.
Dirteater announced his retirement in January of this year during an event at Madison Square Garden. Ryan finished 13th that weekend but finished fourth in the 15/15 challenge.
"Bull riding has been good to me," said Dirteater. "I've been to Brazil, Australia, Canada and about every state in America."
The average career for a professional bull rider is only 10 years. Dirteater has been competing professionally for 13 years, since he was 18. Injuries are inevitable in the sport and Dirteater has been through his share.
A broken collarbone, a compressed spine and a shoulder injury only covers Ryan's injuries from this year. He has suffered a broken femur, collapsed lung, multiple concussions and knee surgeries.
"The bulls are getting better, the competition is getting better and the ground is getting harder," said Dirteater. "I'm working on a house, I plan on getting married next month and I just feel like it's time."
Dirteater embraced his Hulbert roots as well as his Cherokee heritage. He was a fan favorite whenever he competed in Tulsa or Oklahoma City. Ryan placed 12th in Oklahoma City later in January shortly after he had announced his retirement. Dirteater won the Oklahoma City event in 2019 and 2018.
Dirteater had the signature moment of his career at the 2018 Oklahoma City event. He had to ride his final bull by the name of Bruiser, a three time world champion bull, in order to win. He did more than that. The judges awarded him with a score of 93.25, the highest score of his career.
"That ride went to the top. It was pretty special. I had to ride him to win it and I did," said Dirteater. "When you talk about the best feeling in the world when you got your home state behind you and you get 90-something points, you feel like Superman."
Dirteater ranked winning in Oklahoma City over placing fourth in the world in 2016 and winning the PBR Championship in the same year.
"Times like that are special. Not just in rodeo, but football, baseball – I mean in life we have our great times, and those were mine," said Dirteater. "I just want to finish my career as strong as I can, as healthy as I can and get as much out of the sport as I can."
The National Finals will be in November. Dirteater has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, but is trying to return next weekend in Tulsa.
"I'm going to get on some practice bulls this week and see how I feel. If I feel good enough I'll be there," said Dirteater.
Ryan prepared for life after bull riding during his career.
"They told me when I was young to invest in land and cattle so I did," said Dirteater. "I've got about 100 head of cattle and about 300 acres."
Dirteater also partners with a couple of his colleagues and hosts an annual bull-riding school. Zane Cook and bullfighter Jud Napier help Ryan train young aspiring bull riders at the Rocking DJ sports arena in Tahlequah.
"The young guys and girls here in Cherokee County, they're outstanding; the talent is huge, and that's why this sport keeps growing," said Dirteater.
The Tahlequah Elks Lodge hosted a mechanical bull-riding event Saturday night, and Ryan brought his mechanical bull for the contest. MBS is a company that manufactures mechanical bulls and it also sponsors Dirteater.
"They we're looking for a couple guys to endorse and they gave me that mechanical bull just for wearing a sticker," said Dirteater. "I want to thank the Elks lodge for allowing Dirteater Ranch and Cherokee Outlaw to set up the mechanical bull. It's great for a lot of the fans here to get involved and check that off their bucket list."
Dirteater hopes to compete at the PBR Express Ranches classic presented by Bass Pro Shops in Tulsa next weekend. The event would be his final contest in the state of Oklahoma.
The PBR World Finals begin Nov. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. Ryan is currently ranked No. 33 in the world after competing in only 12 events. Brazilian Jose Vitor Leme is ranked No. 1 with 17 event wins out of the 39 events he has participated in this year.